Please note that Standards referenced throughout this FAQ often apply to multiple sets of PREA Standards. Along with different standard numbers, the different sets of standards use different terminology to refer to the population they house including “inmate,” “detainee,” and “resident.” When referencing a standard that applies equally to all facilities covered under PREA, the language in the question and answer will, unless specified, refer to the Adult Prisons & Jails standard numbers and use the term “inmate” to refer generally to the populations in those facilities. The FAQ search functionality uses the standard numbering from the Adult Prisons and Jails, regardless of the specific setting. When a standard is selected, the search will identify all FAQs related to that standard across all standard settings.

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What is the difference between “anonymous” reporting as used in PREA Standard 115.51(b), “confidential” as used in PREA Standard 115.53, and “privately report” as used in PREA Standard 115.51(d)?


PREA Standard 51(b) requires agencies to “provide at least one way for inmates to report abuse or harassment to a public or private entity or office that is not part of the agency, and that is able to receive and immediately forward inmate reports of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to agency officials, allowing the inmate to remain anonymous upon request.” The term “anonymous” as used here means that the inmate must have the ability (at the inmate’s request) to keep his or her identity protected from disclosure to agency and facility personnel. However, the external reporting entity must be able to immediately forward the substance of the allegation back to agency officials. Also, when the inmate does not affirmatively request anonymity, the external reporting entity must be able to immediately report the entirety of the allegation back to agency officials. See also,

PREA Standard 115.53(a) requires facilities to “provide inmates with access to outside victim advocates for emotional support services related to sexual abuse…” and “shall enable reasonable communication between inmates and these organizations and agencies, in as confidential manner as possible.” The Department of Justice acknowledges that a limited number of agency and facility officials may need to know the identity of the inmate utilizing these services. For example, when these services are provided in-person through the inmate visitation process, certain facility personnel will need to know the nature of the visits. However, in these instances, staff should protect this information from internal dissemination to the greatest extent possible. In addition, it is almost always possible for facilities to maintain complete confidentiality with respect to the substance of communications between the inmate and the outside emotional support service provider. In addition, PREA Standard 115.53(b) requires facilities to “inform inmates, prior to giving them access, of the extent to which such communications will be monitored and the extent to which reports of abuse will be forwarded to authorities in accordance with mandatory reporting laws.”

PREA Standard 115.51(d) requires agencies to “provide a method for staff to privately report sexual abuse and sexual harassment of inmates.” The term “privately report” as used here requires that staff must have an avenue to make a report in a manner that other staff (without a need-to-know) are not made aware of such a report.

As stated in the PREA Notice of Final Rule: “In requiring agencies to provide a method for staff to report sexual abuse and sexual harassment ‘privately,’ the Department means that agencies must enable staff to report abuse or harassment directly to an investigator, administrator, or other agency entity without the knowledge of the staff member’s direct colleagues or immediate supervisor.” In addition, “[a] private reporting mechanism may provide a level of comfort to staff who are concerned about retaliation, especially where the staff member reports misconduct committed by a colleague.” See 77 Fed. Reg. 37157 (June 20, 2012).        

Standard: 115.51, 115.53
Categories: Compliance

What is the difference between the post-incident victim advocacy required in PREA Standard 115.21, and the outside confidential support services required in PREA Standard 115.53?


PREA Standard 115.21(e) requires agencies to provide a victim advocate to, when requested by the victim, “accompany and support the victim through the forensic medical examination process and investigatory interviews and shall provide emotional support, crisis intervention, information, and referrals.” If a rape crisis center is not available to provide this service, the agency must provide a qualified staff member of a community-based organization, or a qualified agency staff member. The purpose of the standard is to provide victims with in-person advocacy and support during the forensic medical exam and investigatory interview. This is comparable with services that are generally available to victims in the community when they seek forensic exams or report sexual assaults. 

PREA Standard 115.53, by contrast, focuses on longer-term or ongoing counseling and support for victims, which could be provided by phone or mail, or offered in person. This standard is also intended to provide victims with a way to reach out to a provider to request support. Specifically, this standard requires the facility to:

  1. Provide victims with mailing addresses and phone numbers (including toll-free hotlines where available) for victim advocacy or rape crisis organizations, and enable communication between inmates and victim service providers in “as confidential a manner as possible;”
  2. Inform inmates of the extent to which their communications with victim service providers will be monitored, and the extent to which reports of sexual abuse will be forwarded to authorities, in accordance with mandatory reporting laws; and
  3. Attempt to enter into agreements with victim service providers to provide inmates with confidential sexual abuse support services.

One example of how facilities and agencies have met these requirements is by signing an agreement with a local rape crisis center to respond to hotline calls and provide advocates on-site at certain dates/times. On-site advocates can meet with individual victims and facilitate support groups. The focus of this on-site work is helping victims to recover from the longer-term trauma and emotional impact related to being a victim of sexual abuse.

While the victim advocacy requirements of PREA Standard 115.21 are generally triggered after an inmate makes a report of sexual abuse within a facility, agencies are required to provide all inmates with access to outside confidential support services under PREA Standard 115.53, whether or not they make allegations of sexual abuse.

Standard: 115.21, 115.53
Categories: Compliance